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Records of the Coastal Resources Center, University of Rhode Island, 1971-1990

Historical note

The Coastal Resources Center (CRC) was founded in 1971 at the University of Rhode Island at the request of Governor Frank Licht to assist the state in developing policies and programs to manage the state's coastal resources, fisheries, and energy. The Sea Grant program provided crucial early funding. With the help of the CRC, the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) was created to develop policies and act as a regulatory agency. Early policies were resource specific: Rhode Island's Barrier Beaches; A Nuclear Power Plant in Charlestown, Rhode Island's Ocean Sands; Rhode Island's Natural Areas; and Rhode Island's Bay Island Park. The success of these programs and policies led to their adoption by various state agencies.

In 1975, in order to fulfill CRMC's legislative mandate, the CRC prepared a comprehensive coastal resources management plan (CRMP). The plan consisted of issue-oriented chapters and was introduced to the public through workshops and extensive newspaper coverage before solidifying into a draft plan. Two problem areas were designated as priorities: Providence Harbor and the salt ponds. These areas later became the focus of Special Area Plans (SAP). The program was adopted in 1977 and was one of the first to receive federal implementation funds.

The CRC became more active in regional matters. The New England Regional Commission (NERCOM) asked the CRC to perform research in the search for offshore oil and gas. The Center coordinated experts in the review of Georges Bank Lease Sale #42 and Fishing and Petroleum Interactions on Georges Bank. Information gathered by the CRC on offshore oil and gas was used by the New England governors, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the oil industry, fishermen, citizens, environmentalists, and public officials. The Redevelopment of Quonset/Davisville: An Environmental Assessment examined the impact of oil and gas development on the former Navy base.

In 1977, the CRC began to develop a coastal management tool designed to address conflicts and problems in the priority problem areas. The research gathered in the Sea Grant Salt Ponds Project led to A Special Area Management Plan for the Salt Ponds Region, which was adopted by the CRMC in 1984. It led to changes in zoning and municipal policies in South Kingstown and Charlestown.

The second troubled area was the Providence Harbor. The Center for Ocean Management Studies (COMS) sponsored a conference that led to the CRC instigation of a multiyear study of the harbor including an economic study and Providence Harbor: A Special Area Plan. The Plan was adopted by the CRMC in 1983. The CRC has since studied Newport Harbor and the coastal lagoons of Westerly.

Beginning in 1978, the CRC became involved with water quality management in estuaries. Studies were funded by the EPA and Sea Grant and covered Narragansett Bay, Providence Harbor, urban estuaries, wastewater treatment, and pollution.

In 1980, the CRC worked with the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Program (CRMP) to develop policies and programs for the Rhode Island shoreline and coastal waters to balance preservation and use.

A group of researchers from the CRC and the Departments of Political Science, Geography and Marine Affairs, and Resource Economics collaborated on the formation of a three year study beginning in 1985 that studied how four U.S. estuaries were governed. The four areas were: Narragansett, Delaware, San Francisco, and Galveston Bays. Researchers studied the whole policy-making process, including decision-making, the formation of organizations, and the implementation of policies and programs, and tried to identify successful and failed programs. A related study focused on the trends in environmental conditions, biological resources, and use for Narragansett and Delaware Bays.

The Agency for International Development chose the University of Rhode Island and the CRC to develop a project for studying coastal areas, developing policy, and training in-country professional staffs in Ecuador, Central America, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

The CRC is supported by funds from the state of Rhode Island, the Sea Grant Program, and federal grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through planning grants from the state office of Coastal Zone Management.

Information on the history of the CRC from:

The Coastal Resources Center 1987, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Coastal Resources Center Records, Series II, Box 53, Folder 15.

CRC: Coastal Resources Center Prospectus. Coastal Resources Center Records, Series II, Box 53, Folder 15.

Annual Report 1992. Coastal Resources Center. GSO, University of Rhode Island: RI, 1992.